Thursday, June 28, 2007

Many happy returns, John, old pal!

I'm backdating this post so I can pretend I wrote it on my actual birthday, instead of, you know, a couple hours after its official end.

Do you know who else has the exact same birthday as me? John Cusack. I think of him every year on this day and wonder if he's having a happy one. Now John (I can call him John, since we share a birthday and all) is 41 years old, same as me.

High point (both literally and figuratively): Finally getting to the top of the Space Needle, after seventeen years living in its shadow. Now I'm truly ready to leave Seattle.

Low point: Having Words with the Mermaid Girl at the top of the Space Needle about whether she needed to get a special drink at the snack bar too, since I was getting a Diet Pepsi. Her argument that it was a special day for her too because it was her six-and-five-sixth birthday was not well received. But we did both get drinks (and overpriced bags of potato chips) in the end.

Another high point: MG and the Renaissance Woman gave me this! And I must say (really, I must say, because certain people will be highly disappointed if I don't) that I was utterly and completely surprised, especially since MG has been making a special point lately of mentioning, apropos of absolutely nothing, that it sure would be nice to have Volume 2 of The Electric Company around, and it's too bad that you can't find it anywhere! Not anywhere! Darn!

Yep. They all do tend to blur together after a while, birthdays, but this was a pretty good one. I hope John can say the same.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


I already said what I needed to say about this, but I needs must point anyone reading here to Arwen's recent post about Canadian vs. U.S. health care.

The ironic thing is, B.C. Medical may not cover the expensive--but extremely effective--treatment I'm currently using for my psoriasis. But like Arwen says, in the big picture it's so much fairer, and I feel so much safer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The "Millions of Cats" Parental School Visitation Clause

A couple of weeks ago MG announced that she had a part in her class play, "Millions of Cats." She was the Very Old Woman.

Now, if you know the book, you know that "Millions of Cats" really has only three characters: The Very Old Man, the Very Old Woman, and the Homely Little Kitty. This production also had four narrators. Everyone else in the class played one of the Hundreds and Thousands and Millions and Billions and Trillions of Cats. So you might, especially if you were a stage mom like I apparently am, say that MG had a starring role in the play.

MG seemed to share my assessment. "It was the part I wanted, and I got it," she said several times. Also, as if she couldn't quite believe it and had to keep reminding herself: "I really am the Very Old Woman in the play. Unless something happens. Then Kira is the understudy."

"When's the performance? When's the performance?" we kept asking. But she didn't know.

She knew her lines, though. All of them. Every couple of nights one of us would run lines with her, and she nailed them. Even her big speech, the one where she scolds the Very Old Man for bringing home all those Hundreds of cats, Thousands of cats, Millions and Billions and Trillions of cats when all she had asked for was one little cat.

Finally, the notice came home: the performance for parents would be on the last day of school, Friday, June 22, at 12:45 PM

Which happened to be the exact same time that my school was having its day-after-the-last-day-of-school luncheon for employees, at which departing staff (unless they're leaving in a huff) generally show up to be thanked, and everyone cries. Now, I've been at this job for almost a decade. I wrote a year ago about the weepfest that was last year's goodbye luncheon, and have been thinking ever since about what I was going to say when it was my turn. I wanted to thank everyone for being my village. I wanted the closure, and, frankly, the recognition. I really, really, didn't want to skip it.

But I also didn't want to be the kind of workaholic jerk who misses her daughter's star turn in the school play because of a workplace function. Calvin Trillin once wrote in an essay that his wife, Alice, was of the opinion that if parents do not show up to every single performance that one of their children is in, the authorities will [or, maybe, should] come and take the child into custody. The Trillins seem to have gotten a lot right in their life together, so I put some stock in this pronouncement.

So I e-mailed her teacher to ask if I could come to one of the rehearsals the day before the performance, and she said that would be fine. I mentioned the possibility to MG, but didn't make a big deal out of it, lest she be disappointed if something came up at the last minute and I couldn't make it.

But nothing came up, and at just after ten o'clock on my last day of classes ever at this school, just after the last-ever class I taught there, I signed out for an extra-long lunch and drove the 40 minutes from the suburbs back to our neighborhood so I could witness the Mermaid Girl's performance in a dress rehearsal preview for the kindergarteners.

I made good time, and her class was still out at recess when I arrived. I waited in the hall, gleeful at the chance to actually see my little girl perform in an adaptation of a book I've loved since my own childhood, and not a little smug that I was able, at some personal sacrifice, to meet Alice Trillin's high standards for worthy parenthood after all.

There's nothing like a real live child to dissipate one's rosy clouds of virtue. That's what I remembered when MG's class marched in from recess and she saw me admiring the hallway bulletin board displays. "Mommy!" she hissed. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see your play!" I trilled. Or maybe I quavered. Because her tone was not so pleased. And she was glaring at me with the same glare we get when we break the news that if she doesn't get her teeth brushed in the next two minutes, she will be a kid without a bedtime story. Could it...could it really be that she didn't want me to see her play?

It could.

She disappeared into the bathroom to put on her costume, and when she came back she did her best to act like I wasn't there. Her teacher sent her to me to get her shoes tied and her dress buttoned, and she sidled over reluctantly, muttering out of the side of her mouth. "I don't want you here, Mommy. Please leave!"

"But..." I sputtered, "but..."

Another mom kindly offered to get her costume fixed up, and I escaped to the hallway, totally at a loss, trying to sort out my thoughts, which went something like: After all I did!...Can't tell me not to...! Only chance to see her be the Very Old...! And the other moms will think I let my kid walk all...!

I could see only two options: to slink off quietly and return to work, a humiliating and miserable prospect aside from all the wasted time and fossil fuels; or to march back into the classroom and assert my parental right to see my child perform, possibly pushing said child into a tantrum and/or into stubborn non-performance, which would not only make me and MG miserable and embarrassed, but also her teacher, her classmates, the other parents, and the visiting kindergarteners.

So I did what I often do when confused or at loose ends: I went to the library. I poured out my troubles to MG's librarian, who sympathized and didn't seem to think I was at all wimpy for letting my kid order me around, at least not under these circumstances. She was pretty nice about the whole thing, and I was able to calm down enough to go back to the classroom and give it one more shot, being prepared to leave if need be.

The play hadn't started yet; the kids were all in their places, but the kindergarteners were just starting to find their seats. MG stood next to the gray-bearded Very Old Man in her old-fashioned dress and apron and bonnet, with wire-rimmed granny glasses I'd never seen before perched on her nose. She waved to me solemnly as I drew near.

"Goodbye, Mommy," she said quietly but firmly, waving, and looking a little like a slightly pissed-off Mrs. Santa Claus.

"I'll go if you really want me to," I said.

"I really want you to," she said.

"All right," I said. "but are you sure? It's my only chance to see you in the play, you know."

She sighed a tiny bit. "Ohhh-kay," she said. "You can stay. But go stand over there!" She pointed over to the side, near the cubbies, behind the painted scenery, far from where the rest of the audience was gathered.

"Okay!" I agreed, trying not to look either too pleased at getting to stay or too irked at having to stand in a weird place.

So I got to stay and see her after all. Or, at least, to hear her, since the scenery prevented me from actually seeing her face for much of the performance. Though I did have an excellent view of the Hundreds and Thousands and etc. cats, who did a really good job of mewing and arguing and pretending to fight while not actually hurting each other (though one or two cats did seem to be just a wee bit excited about getting to kick at each other with their hind legs).

And I got back to work in plenty of time for the afternoon end-of-school festivities, and today I got to say my goodbyes and weep my weeps at the luncheon, while RW was watching the final performance with the other parents.

And MG and I talked last night. She said she'd rather be disappointed by my not showing up after saying I might, than surprised by my unexpected appearance, so I agreed that if it came up again I'd try to tell her if I might or might not be able to come to something.

Then I announced the New Rule that RW and I had come up with. The New Rule is that parents are allowed to come to their child's school at any time, with or without warning, and the child is not allowed to make a fuss. (We won't be taking advantage of that rule once she hits middle-school age. But I decided not to tell her that just yet.)

MG scowled. "I hate new rules," she said. "The only rule I like is the rule that Shy Kitty's not allowed to come into my room, because I'm allergic."

But her protest had a pro-forma vibe to it. She didn't cry, or try to argue, or explain all the reasons that the rule was unfair. She just said she hated it, and went on hula-hooping in the front yard. I got the feeling that this particular new rule didn't actually bother her very much, or at all.

I figure that, given the choice, I'd rather have her upset that I showed up than upset that I didn't. I don't want to try to read MG's mind--recent events have shown that I'm not so good at that--but I think that when it comes down to it she'd rather have it that way, too.

And I imagine that Alice Trillin, may she rest in peace, would approve.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Valid Philosophy. Just Not Mine.

I've been breaking the news to the kids at school when I see each group for the last class session. I tell them how much I've loved being their librarian, and that I'm moving to Vancouver because I think it's a better place for me and my family, but that it was a really hard decision to make because I love this school so much and love working there.

One kid yesterday said plaintively, "But if you love it here so much, why are you leaving?" I felt like a heel.

The same kid collared me later and asked me more about the move: "But what if you go to Canada, and then it turns out to be a big mistake?!?" she demanded.

I said I guessed that was possible, and I worry about it sometimes, but then I think, well, what if I stay at this job and never leave because I'm scared it might not be as good somewhere else, and then in thirty or forty years or so, when I'm dying, I think: "I wonder what would have happened if I'd gone to Vancouver? I was too scared to do it, and now I'll never know."

She glowered at me. "Better to be SAFE," she muttered.

prfict: A Verbatim Excerpt from MG's Science Notebook


on the frst day it was 53* F. for the white bag. In the black bag it was 69* F.

If we were wering black on a hot we wod be boling. If we were wering white on a hot and sunny day we wood be prfict.

*These were actually degree superscript symbols but I don't know how to make those in Blogger.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Crap! Oh, Well.

I had an interview last week for a job up in Vancouver, and it looks like I didn't get it. They said they'd call by the end of the week, and Thursday came and went, and Friday came and went, and no call. So, I guess they could have been sick or delayed or just forgotten or maybe they're waiting for their first choice to reply and it will turn out the first choice will turn it down, but in all probability this is a job that I didn't get.

So, I've been going around saying things like, "Oh, well. It's good that I at least got an interview," and "oh, well, this way I'll have more time over the summer to move and house-hunt," and "oh, well, I'm sure I'll get another job," but the truth is, I don't feel "oh, well," at all. I feel more like: Crap! Crap! Crappity crap crap! Because I really wanted this job. I liked the people who interviewed me, and I liked the scope of duties, and I liked the workplace itself, and I liked the location and the hours, and I think I could have done a really good job for them. Aside from how it would have been nice to be, you know, earning an actual paycheck right off after the move. So, well, crap.

And even though it's Sunday, whenever the phone rings or I see that I've got a new e-mail, I think: maybe it's them! Telling me they want me! Oh, joy! And then: crap. Crappity crap. Not them. So if you called and I've sounded vaguely disappointed to hear from you in the last couple of days, my apologies; it's not personal.

That said, it's been nine years since I've done any applying for jobs, and I find that my attitude has changed a lot in that time. I remember applying for library jobs right out of graduate school, and feeling incredibly anxious and stressed about the application process and particularly about interviewing. It felt like the worst possible kind of exam, one where the rules were unwritten, and sometimes unspoken, and you had to mind-read what the testers wanted, and everything counted: your clothes and your smile and the way you answered completely random questions and even what you forgot to say. And only one person could pass.

Now, having worked at one job for nearly a decade (a job, by the way, for which my interview was only so-so at best but for which I happened to apply at the right time), and having interviewed or been part of the interview or evaluation process for other new staff, and having seen people come and go, I don't really think it's like a test any more: it's more like a date. If they pick you for an interview, it means they think your qualifications are strong; the interview itself is a lot about seeing if you all click. It's not that it's wrong to prepare-- I prepared for this one, and I think I prepared as well as I could have--but that it's not about trying to do a big tap-dance to try to get them to like me.

Because after the application, and after the interview, these are the people I'll be having to actually work with if I get the job, so if I have to be all fakey to get them to like me during the interview (by which I don't mean being polite, or tactful, or diplomatic, but the kind of desperate second-guessing fakey that I've sometimes felt I had to put on during interviews) then that's a bad start to what can be a very complex and intense relationship.

So at this interview, I tried hard to show the interviewers my best self, and to show off what I'm good at, and to make the most of what rapport I felt with them (the fact that this wasn't hard to do is one reason I really wish I'd gotten the job). But I didn't stress out too much about whether I was coming off as What They Wanted. I figured if I wasn't really what they wanted, and I got the job, I'd hate it anyway, and they wouldn't like me once they found out what I was really like, and that's no way to spend 40 hours a week.

And, you know, these people might have liked me just fine; they seemed to. But they were interviewing four people, and they only have one job. I figure I didn't blow it; I just didn't get it. This time.

Oh, well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Game of Musical Cats

A couple months ago, when we were first planning this move, the Renaissance Woman's cousin in Vancouver asked if we could cat-sit for them for the month of July. Needless to say, we jumped on the offer. The only problem was that they understandably didn't want us bringing our cat up too, so we were left with the dilemma of finding our own cat-sitter for the duration (our Seattle renters won't move in until September, and anyway they have their own cat, too).

Then, last week, a friend of RW's mom asked if we could cat-sit for her in Vancouver for the month of July; the sitter she had lined up had bailed at the last minute, and she was desperate. She even offered to let us bring our own cat up, as long as we kept him in a separate part of the house from her cats. Naturally, we couldn't refuse an offer like that. But RW's cousin still needs us, and anyway they've done us many favors and we'd like to reciporicate.

So, now we are in the really quite enviable position of having two house-sitting gigs for next month, about ten blocks apart from each other, in a lovely part of the city. Of course, since both residents would very much prefer that their houses not be left untenanted for more than a day or so at a time (Vancouver has a problem with break-ins), we will be moving up together...and then mostly living in separate houses for the first month we're there, while trying to coordinate apartment-hunting, job-hunting, childcare, and moving-related logistics.

Fortunately, we both have laptops. and I think both places have wireless. So I guess we can e-mail each other. A lot.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Oh, it's nice to be back on the "Posting" page again.

Last night we went over to our next-door neighbors' for a barbecue. It was a classic neighborhood scene, out of a commercial for lawn furniture: us grownups lolling on the back deck with our wine while the Mermaid Girl and their three-year-old played in the sandbox and rolled on the lawn and occasionally wandered over to beg for a cookie.

Our neighbor's husband was out working late, so she and the Renaissance Woman and I had a lovely time talking for hours about shoes, and real-estate prices, and '70's school dress codes and children's television and school pictures. It turned out that our neighbor had a pair of shoes that she loved but that have never fit her right, and so did I, and she ran into her house to get hers and RW ran next door to get mine, and lo and behold! we fit each others' shoes perfectly! So we swapped.

We really like these neighbors. It's been fun to see their daughter grow into the chatty individual that she is. Last year we ended up with a fairly regular summer evening ritual where they'd wander over after dinner and sit on the porch with us and eat popsicles on their way for a pre-bedtime walk; sometimes they'd just sweep MG up on the walk with them, and RW and I would have a blessed twenty minutes on our own.

In the winter, we sometimes don't even see them for months at a time. But when the days get long like this, we come out of hibernation. Plus, we really do borrow baking supplies--never actually a cup of sugar, I don't think, but eggs and flour and cupcake tins.

I hope we have neighbors like them where we end up.